Trump: Clin­ton a ‘dis­grace’

Cam­paign, DNC linked to fund­ing of dossier

The Arizona Republic - - News 2 -

WASH­ING­TON - Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and fel­low Repub­li­cans latched onto rev­e­la­tions ty­ing Hil­lary Clin­ton’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign to a dossier of al­le­ga­tions about his ties to Rus­sia. The pres­i­dent said Wed­nes­day it was a “dis­grace” that Democrats had helped pay for re­search that pro­duced the doc­u­ment.

“It’s just re­ally — it’s a very sad com­men­tary on pol­i­tics in this coun­try,” Trump said in ad­dress­ing re­porters one day af­ter news re­ports re­vealed that the Clin­ton cam­paign and the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee, for sev­eral months last year, helped fund re­search that ul­ti­mately ended up in the dossier.

The doc­u­ment, com­piled by a for­mer Bri­tish spy and al­leg­ing a com­pro­mised re­la­tion­ship be­tween Trump and the Krem­lin, has emerged this year as a po­lit­i­cal flash­point. Law en­force­ment of­fi­cials have worked to cor­rob­o­rate its claims. James Comey, FBI di­rec­tor at the time, ad­vised Trump about the ex­is­tence of the al­le­ga­tions, and the ex-spy who helped as­sem­ble the doc­u­ment, Christo­pher Steele, has been ques­tioned as part of an on­go­ing probe into pos­si­ble co­or­di­na­tion be­tween Rus­sia and the Trump camp.

Trump has brushed aside the doc­u­ment as “phony stuff” and “fake news” and por­trayed him­self Wed­nes­day as an ag­grieved party, post­ing on Twit­ter a quote he said was from Fox News that re­ferred to him as “the vic­tim.” The new dis­clo­sure about the dossier’s ori­gins is likely to fuel com­plaints by Trump and his sup­port­ers that the doc­u­ment is merely a col­lec­tion of sala­cious and un­cor­rob­o­rated claims.

“Well, I think it’s very sad what they’ve done with this fake dossier,” Trump said Wed­nes­day, adding with­out elab­o­ra­tion that “they paid a tremen­dous amount of money.” He con­tended that Democrats had ini­tially de­nied any con­nec­tion to the doc­u­ment, but now, “they ad­mit­ted it, and they’re em­bar­rassed by it.”

Sep­a­rately Wed­nes­day, the edi­tor of Wik­ileaks con­firmed that his group was ap­proached by Cam­bridge An­a­lyt­ica, a data firm work­ing for Trump’s cam­paign dur­ing the 2016 elec­tion.

Ju­lian As­sange told The As­so­ci­ated Press that Wik­ileaks re­ceived a “re­quest for in­for­ma­tion” from Cam­bridge An­a­lyt­ica. That re­quest, which As­sange would not spec­ify, came prior to last Novem­ber and was re­jected. As­sange’s com­ments came af­ter The Daily Beast re­ported that Cam­bridge An­a­lyt­ica CEO Alexan­der Nix reached out to As­sange dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign about the pos­si­ble re­lease of 33,000 of Hil­lary Clin­ton’s miss­ing emails. Those emails have never been pub­licly re­leased.

A spokesman for Cam­bridge An­a­lyt­ica did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment. Robert Mercer, a bil­lion­aire Trump sup­porter, is a backer of Cam­bridge An­a­lyt­ica. For­mer White House strate­gist Steve Ban­non served as a vice pres­i­dent at the com­pany be­fore join­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Two peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the newly dis­closed dossier mat­ter, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity to dis­cuss con­fi­den­tial client mat­ters, told AP the fund­ing ar­range­ment was bro­kered in the spring of 2016 by a law firm rep­re­sent­ing the Clin­ton cam­paign and the DNC and that it lasted un­til right be­fore Elec­tion Day. The fi­nal memo in­cluded in the dossier, a ver­sion of which was pub­lished on­line by Buz­zfeed in Jan­uary, is dated De­cem­ber 2016, or af­ter the ar­range­ment had ended.

In March of that year, the per­son said, the law firm of Perkins Coie was ap­proached by Fu­sion GPS, a po­lit­i­cal re­search firm that had al­ready be­gun re­search work on Trump dur­ing the GOP pri­mary.

Fu­sion GPS ex­pressed in­ter­est in con­tin­u­ing to cre­ate op­po­si­tion re­search on Trump, and Perkins Coie en­gaged it in April 2016 “to per­form a va­ri­ety of re­search ser­vices dur­ing the 2016 elec­tion cy­cle,” ac­cord­ing to a let­ter from the law firm’s gen­eral coun­sel that was ob­tained by AP.

The Wash­ing­ton Free Bea­con on Fri­day con­firmed it orig­i­nally re­tained the po­lit­i­cal re­search firm Fu­sion GPS to scour then-can­di­date Trump’s back­ground for neg­a­tive in­for­ma­tion. Lead­ers from the Free Bea­con, which is funded largely by Repub­li­can bil­lion­aire Paul Singer, in­sisted none of the early ma­te­rial it col­lected ap­peared in the dossier re­leased later in the year de­tail­ing ex­plo­sive al­le­ga­tions, many un­cor­rob­o­rated, about Trump com­piled by a for­mer Bri­tish spy.

The pres­i­dent him­self hinted that he knew the Repub­li­can source ear­lier in the week, but he re­fused to share it. The White House had no im­me­di­ate com­ment Fri­day night about the Free Bea­con’s in­volve­ment.

It’s un­clear what Fu­sion GPS had dug up by the time the law firm hired it, or how much money was in­volved in the trans­ac­tion. The Perkins Coie at­tor­ney who helped cre­ate the ar­range­ment, Marc Elias, did not im­me­di­ately re­turn an email seek­ing com­ment, and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Fu­sion GPS de­clined to com­ment. The Wash­ing­ton Post first re­ported the fund­ing deal.

The Clin­ton cam­paign paid more than $5.6 mil­lion to Perkins Coie, record­ing the ex­pen­di­tures as sim­ply “le­gal ser­vices,” ac­cord­ing to Fed­eral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion records. The DNC also paid the law firm more than $2.9 mil­lion, nearly all of which was re­ported as “le­gal and com­pli­ance con­sult­ing.” The DNC did report pay­ing the firm $66,500 for re­search con­sult­ing.

The new dis­clo­sure placed fresh at­ten­tion on the world of op­po­si­tion re­search and the tech­niques that po­lit­i­cal cam­paigns em­ploy. Trump Jr.’s el­dest son, Don­ald Trump Jr., re­ceived pub­lic scru­tiny when it was re­vealed in July that he had met one year ear­lier with Rus­sians at Trump Tower af­ter be­ing told he would be re­ceiv­ing dam­ag­ing in­for­ma­tion on Clin­ton. In that case, pub­licly re­leased emails show that Trump Jr. had been told the in­for­ma­tion was part of a Rus­sian gov­ern­ment ef­fort to aid his fa­ther.

That June 2016 meet­ing is be­ing in­ves­ti­gated by Robert Mueller, the Jus­tice Depart­ment’s spe­cial coun­sel lead­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into whether Trump cam­paign aides co­or­di­nated with Rus­sia to in­flu­ence the out­come of the elec­tion.

In a state­ment Tues­day night, a DNC spokes­woman said the chair­man, Tom Perez, was not part of the de­ci­sion-making and was un­aware that Perkins Coie was work­ing with Fu­sion GPS.

“But let’s be clear, there is a se­ri­ous fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the Trump cam­paign’s ties to Rus­sia, and the Amer­i­can pub­lic de­serves to know what hap­pened,” the state­ment said.

For­mer Clin­ton cam­paign spokesman Brian Fal­lon said on Twit­ter that he re­gret­ted not know­ing about Steele’s hir­ing be­fore the elec­tion, and that had he known, “I would have vol­un­teered to go to Europe and try to help him.”

ANDREW HARNIK/AP

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